Autism Acceptance Week April 2022

Parent and Art Psychotherapist Supporting Black Autistic Young People to Thrive

As a parent and practitioner supporting the development of a positive Black autistic identity is critical in the face of these statistics. The high rates of permanent exclusions of Black boys from mainstream schools coupled with the recent 60% rise in exclusions for autistic students is alarming, but does not specifically reflect the experience of Black autistic boys. 

When the OCC They Never Give Up on you Report (2012) states: ‘A black Caribbean boy eligible for free school meals who also has special educational needs (SEN) is 168 times more likely to be permanently excluded than a white British girl without SEN and not eligible for free school meals we should be shocked by these statistics. However it is unlikely that this statistic takes into account the experience of Black autistic boys, a particularly vulnerable group that we do not know much about. A recent chapter in ‘The Neurodiversity Reader – Pavilion Publishing and Media Ltd explores the experience of African Caribbean autistic boys and school exclusions in more detail click here

In my work and my practice I try to support Black young people to develop a positive identity that increases a sense of belonging, value and self-worth. As a practitioner working within a Black perspective I work holistically. To increase young people’s knowledge about autism I look to influencers and famous people to show young people they are not alone and that there are autistic young people and adults who face challenges and are also thriving.

There are few role models that Black and autistic young people can identify with so it is important to do some research and support young people to be open about their experience and have a voice.

Do you know Sam Holness, Triathlete, have you heard of Tylan Grant, actor and campaigner, do you know Stephen Wiltshire, artist, Kalin Bennet first autistic D1 Basketball Player in USA, I know Kizzy Spence elite U18’s  Team GB Basketball player, who was ‘blind Tom’ Wiggins, pianist and composer?  Too often Black students do not experience a positive sense of self in the school environment and curriculum. This is especially true in addressing the damaging effects of racism. In my practice to support my work with young people I use aspects of Jackson’s  (1975, 2001) Black Identity Development Model and Atkinson, Morten & Sue’s (1998) Minority Identity Development Model to work with autistic young people to support them to thrive. By adapting these models I have found ways to work with Black autistic young people and to support them to explore and embrace a positive Black autistic identity.

Here’s one I made earlier (my daughters amazing success in elite basketball) Olatunde Spence April 2022

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